Last year, my 11-year-old cat Electra was diagnosed with asthma. Our vet informed me that Electra would need a rescue inhaler in case she had an acute attack and I would need to administer a steroid inhaler twice a day. (Yes, feline asthma is common and yes, they make an inhaler modification for cats. ‘Merica.) The bad news came when the vet informed me that a steroid inhaler runs about $250 a month. She suggested I purchase inhalers from Canada, where they run about $50. I’ve since discovered I can purchase inhalers for $35 in Vanuatu — that’s where all the folks in my asthmatic cats support group get theirs. (Yes, there’s a support group for people with asthmatic cats.)
So, what’s with the excessive and irregular cost of prescription drugs? Those of us with insurance don’t always think about the actual cost of prescriptions because we don’t really “pay” for our medicine, but instead have a “reasonable” co-pay. Or maybe not so reasonable. Some people rely on government programs to obtain their needed medication — medication that they can’t afford. Should the pharmaceutical industry gouge the hospitals and clinics that voluntarily participate in a program that provides low-income patients with medication?
Last week, a lawsuit was filed to force the Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget to explain why they have delayed penalizing drug makers for jacking up their prices for participants in the voluntary low-income medication program, the 340B program.
Here’s one possibility as to why we haven’t seen any movement on the anti-gouging front: “The ex-lobbyist, Joseph Grogan, joined OMB as associate director of health programs after Trump took office. Previously, Grogan served as a top lobbyist for Gilead Sciences, the company that famously marketed Sovaldi, a hepatitis C treatment that cost patients $1,000 a day.” Really? $1,000 a day? Pharma has plenty of money for their annoying commercials.
The legislation was set to go into effect on March 6 of this year, the same week former lobbyist Joseph Grogan was appointed to run the administration’s pharma policy.
You know who is happy about the delay in implementing the gouging regulation? Big Pharma, because the industry wants to be able to set the prices it charges to low-income clinics and hospitals all by itself. The same people who gave us astronomical EpiPen prices and Martin Shkreli.
Democracy Forward, a nonprofit watchdog group, is the entity that filed a suit against the government. The group’s executive director, Anne Harkavy, a former Obama administration counsel, accused Trump of bailing out on his campaign vow “to protect Americans from exploitative pricing” of vital treatments.
“By allowing pharma to re-write their own rules,” Harkavy said in a statement, “the Trump Administration is making it easier for drug makers to reap illegal profits by overcharging for life-saving drugs, setting the stage for another EpiPen price-gouging disaster.”
The OMB had no comment on the delay or the lawsuit.
Trump campaigned on draining the swamp, so why do we have a former pharma swamp lobbyist in the government “supervising” the pharmaceutical industry, which has managed to escape efforts to rein in prices?